An Experiment

Photo used under creative commons by digiclaI love a challenge. I have this propensity for finding the hardest thing I can do, and then pushing myself to do it. I also have a love/hate relationship with the internet. And depending on the day, it can go either way.

While the internet has become the playground of pedophiles, porn, and spam, at times, it allows us to peer into the lives of those making a difference, those who are doing things that truly matter. And it inspires us to do the same.

This semester, I am challenging my Christian Ethics 10 students to reflect on what deeply matters. This is a generation that has been raised to be consumers from birth, and have likely rarely paused to consider a different way. Teenagers, like many adults, tend to define themselves by what they own, or more precisely what they wear.

Enter two websites that I love. Six items or less and The Great American Apparel Diet. Six items or less challenges people to choose and wear only six clothing items for a month. That’s it. Your items must suffice for work, play and evenings out. The Great American Apparel Diet raises the bar and challenges participants to give up buying clothes for an entire year. And each site provides a platform to blog the journey.

Last week I challenged my students to participate in both. In all honesty. I basically dared them. I want to see who has the Chutzpah to give this a whirl. Both of these experiments will teach much more that I can even imagine at this point, in regards to identity and consumerism.  Maybe this is part of the process of my classroom becoming more like an apprenticeship.  

I am also fully aware that I cannot ask this of my students, if I’m not willing to participate in this journey myself. I am. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo used under creative commons from digicla

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About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. I am currently a PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is play-based learning in high school, and it's impact on brain development.
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8 Responses to An Experiment

  1. courosa says:

    Well done, Shelley. I do believe (digital) activism is one of the most important elements of (digital) citizenship. Of course, one of the cautions is getting caught up in faux-activism or slacktivism – and helping students to understand the difference. For instance, joining a Facebook Cause is likely to do more harm than good for the simple fact that it may give the ‘clicker’ some sense that he/she actually accomplished something important. I am glad you are getting your students to take on real challenges, and hopeful it will lead to more awareness and action.

    • I’ve never heard of the term digital citizenship before, but I think it’s a really important concept, especially since it’s becoming such a prominent part of most people’s lives.

      • @courusa, I also believe digital citizenship is an important concept in a digital world. For residing in a digital world one needs to have its citizenship then creating the ‘digital identity’. Nowadays, with the exponential growing of social software and web 2.0 applications and their impact individual everyday’s life we have got also ‘digital natives’ who are born and raised in the era of “digitalness” with the immersion in varieties of social and digital media.

  2. Iain Robertson says:

    Hi Shelley.

    What a great challenge. I am interested in how it all plays . I particularly like the risk associated with your initiative. For me at least putting ourselves out there is the hallmark of great teaching. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes not so much. I am really looking to your posts.

    Iain

  3. Carla Arena says:

    Shelley, what a fantastic idea for a group of students. As you pointed out, you’ll learn more from this experience than you could ever have expected. I’m sure all of you will have wonderful transformative stories to talk about. Are your students keeping any kind of collective log? Let us know how it goes.

    I think you’re giving me some ideas for the school I work for in Brasilia, Brazil.

    • I’m still trying to figure out the process that we’re going to use for the whole thing, but I think blogging the experience is a great idea. It will allow them to share with others their experience, while allowing them to look back on what they’ve learned.

  4. There is a wealth of great material for this type of exploration online. On the popular side of things Zen Habits offers the space for this type of reflection. But I’ve found lots of smaller blogs I follow of people building their own house, growing their own vegetables, pursing a simpler, less consumerist more reflective life…you could find a few through here. Maybe even get your students to unpack it – do some skype or email interviews and find out the ethics behind those who make these decisions…having explored it for some time – they are varied and different and not always in alignment with each other…which is sort of grand I reckon.

  5. carla arena says:

    Dear Shelley, if you encourage your students to have some kind of log, it can be a very deepening experience for them as they will be reflecting throughout the process. Besides, you can have guests visiting their comments and add comments to it. I’m sure they will be encouraged to give a step further and learn a lot from the experience. If you come up with something, let me know. If you need any help or suggestion, I’m around, as well.

    Cheers from hot Brasilia.

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